Sunday, October 2

Area Code 666

Wireless phone service became available in six Manhattan subway stations last Tuesday the 27th.  The MTA been working since 2004 with phone carriers AT&T and T-Mobil, as well as with Transit Wireless to make underground communication a reality.  Transit Wireless is a consortium of wireless providers incorporated specifically to provide service to those in previously unreachable zones.

What is meant to make commuting safer and more productive, however, is being met with some resistance. 

“It’s annoying, but I don’t think it’s my right to tell someone they can’t be on the phone just because it may annoy me,” said Albert Cotugno, NYU student body president.  “All I care is that I’m not in some way paying for their phone calls and texts.”

Providing those with wireless service is affordable as it comes with no expense to wireless customers, although this is under the assumption that the project’s costs are not already built into price. 

But someone most certainly did pay for it.  Transit Wireless alone invested 200 million in start up costs.  AT&T and T-Mobile contributed to the initial costs; it is estimated that these carriers will spend a combined $46 million over the next 10 years to the MTA.  The MTA is already considering incorporating additional carriers, enabling more New Yorkers to take advantage of this feature.  This extra revenue, which comes with nearly no overhead, could mean good things for New Yorkers, whether or not they are AT&T or T-Mobil users.

“If this means the MTA is going to lay off for a few seconds and stop raising the price of my monthly card then I am happy,” said Alex Amini, daily Brooklyn commuter.

MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Wilder said to The New Yorker, “…whether you’re checking your email, calling your kids or looking for emergency assistance, wireless service will bring the conveniences we’re used to through our lives into the subway system.”

Convenience is vitally important for many New Yorkers, but is it really a matter of life and death?

“It just seems logical to me that if someone were trying to bomb the subway, that cell phone reception would make it easier,” said Amini. “Is that a risk we’re willing to take?”

The MTA has made no official statement regarding the potential of a terrorist attack.  Although only six Chelsea stations are up and running, the MTA plans to expand coverage to all subway stations over the next four years.  It is implicit in the expansion of the program that terror is a risk all New Yorkers are going to have to take.

According to the MTA, the expansion is projected to cost anywhere from $100 million to $200 million.  

1 comment: